Public Chapter 869 – Focus Act
- July 1, 2016 – FOCUS Act takes effect.
- 2017 – University boards assume management and governance of their respective institutions after all members have been appointed and upon the board’s first meeting, as called by the Governor. See § 19(f)(7)(B)(i).
- June 30, 2017 (no later than) – The title of the property held on behalf of the state universities by TBR shall be transferred to the respective state university board upon the board’s assumption of responsibility, but no later than June 30, 2017. See § 21(d).
- December 1, 2017 (or later) – Boards may assume management of data, capital, and procurement processes from TBR if formal request is made to, and approved by, THEC. See § 1(a)(2)(C).
- University boards assume the management and governance of their respective institutions only after appointments are confirmed and upon the first official convening. Specifically:
“Each state university board’s first meeting after all members have been appointed shall be upon the call of the governor, at which point the state university boards shall assume responsibility for the management and governance of their respective institutions.” See § 19(f)(7)(B)(i).
- Board members appointed by the Governor are subject to confirmation by the House and Senate, but appointments are effective until adversely acted upon by joint resolution. See § 19(f)(3).
- Orientation training for new board members, coordinated by THEC, must be completed prior to the board’s first meeting. In subsequent years, all newly appointed members shall attend orientation seminars within their first year of service. See § 19(f)(7)(A)&(B)(i).
- The effective rules and policies of TBR shall be deemed those of the boards and their respective institutions until rescinded or revised by the individual boards. See § 19(f)(8)(C).
- Boards have no authority to borrow money without prior TSSBA approval. See § 21(a)(4)&(b).
- Specifically, institutional authority is subject to:
- The transition period for the management of data, capital, and procurement functions (July 1, 2016 to November 30, 2017);
- The appointment, confirmation, and training of local board members;
- The first local board meeting;
- Ongoing TBR management of certain fiscal matters involving TSSBA; and
- Other duties statutorily relegated to THEC.
Additional Points Regarding University Boards
- Boards are authorized to maintain bank accounts, draw checks, and maintain their own fiscal procedure. Boards shall have the same fiscal autonomy as the UT Board of Trustees. See § 9.
- Boards and their institutions are exempt from CPO rules of procurement. See § 32.
- Boards may receive donations, purchase land, and erect/equip buildings. See § 21(a)(2).
- Boards shall manage capital and real estate within the scope of the master plan. See § 21(c).
- Boards can establish policies regarding residency status, within guidelines. See § 6.
- Boards have the power to prescribe curricula and requirements for degrees, but shall maintain alignment across state higher education by working to develop curricula requirements that promote student success, postsecondary completion, and the advancement of THEC’s master plan. See § 21(a)(1)(B).
- Boards shall ensure their institutions remain in compliance with the transfer and articulation provisions of § 49-7-202, transfer pathways, and dual admission. See § 21(e) and § 29(r)&(s).
- Each board shall elect from its members a chair and other officers. See § 19(f)(8)(A).
- The non-voting student member shall be selected and appointed by the state university board. See § 19(f)(1)(F).
- Boards shall adopt a code of ethics to govern the conduct of all appointed members. See § 22(a).
- Appointed board members can be removed for a “material violation of the code of ethics” by two-thirds (2/3) vote of all members. See § 22(b)&(c).
- Boards shall assist THEC in convening representatives of the institutions and the boards to help ensure a cohesive and coordinated system of higher education public policy. See § 21(m).
- State university boards are authorized to promulgate administrative rules in accordance with the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act. See § 33.
- Boards are vested with other powers necessary to carry out the purposes of the Act. Legislative intent is to vest boards with similar authority as that held by the UT Board of Trustees. See § 21(a)(4).
- THEC will administer the initial training and orientation as well as continuing education for all board members. See § 19(f)(7)(A).
- THEC will engage the institutions in development of the master plan recommendations. See § 29(d).
- THEC will review and approve institutional mission statements. See § 29(e).
- The funding formula process is essentially unchanged. However, each president of the six universities will now be a member of the Formula Review Committee. See § 29(g)(1).
- THEC has binding in-state undergraduate tuition-setting authority. Institutions may increase in-state undergraduate tuition and fees within the percentage adjustment ranges approved annually by THEC, but shall not exceed the maximum in the ranges. See § 29(n).
- THEC will formally identify institutional capital investment opportunities for consideration by the Governor and the legislature. See § 29(o).
- THEC has the authority to convene representatives of the institutions and the boards to ensure a cohesive and coordinated system of higher education public policy. See § 29(p).
- State legislative funding requests for an institution shall first be considered and acted upon through established procedures and shall not be advanced without the knowledge of the Executive Director of THEC, the institution’s president, and as applicable, the UT or TBR system head. See § 30.
- THEC will continue to study the need for, and approve proposals regarding, new academic programs, departments, divisions, physical locations, campus extensions, etc. TBR will maintain their duties in this regard until the new board assumes control. See § 29(q) and 19(f)(7)(B)(i).
- TBR maintains exclusive management of data systems, capital projects, and procurement until November 30, 2017. After that date, university boards may assume these functions with THEC approval. See § 1(a)(2)(C).
- University boards will approve operating budgets and set fiscal policies, but TBR shall give final approval to operating budgets to ensure all obligations to TSSBA are satisfied. See § 21(a)(1)(C).
- Funds appropriated to institutions shall be distributed by the Department of Finance and Administration to TBR, which will then distribute such funds minus any deductions required by any financing agreement with the TSSBA. See § 21(a)(1)(C).
- TBR “shall retain all powers and duties with respect to each state university” which are necessary to fulfill its obligations under any financing agreement with the TSSBA. See § 21(a)(1)(C).
- No change in tuition policy shall be made that, in the opinion of TBR, might adversely affect compliance with TSSBA financing agreements. See § 29(n)(7).